North Carolina Order Places New Social Distancing Restrictions on Retailers

April 10, 2020Alerts

On April 9, 2020, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed a new Executive Order that implements new requirements for retail establishments that are still authorized to operate within the state. This includes “any business in which customers enter to purchase goods or services, including but not limited to grocery stores, convenience stores, large-format retail stores, pharmacies, banks, ABC stores, hardware stores, and vehicle dealerships.”

The Order, which takes effect Monday at 5 p.m., requires these establishments to limit capacity to 20% of their fire capacity or five people for every 1,000 square feet of the location’s total square footage. Retail stores that expect to reach this maximum will be required to post staff at entrances and exits to enforce the maximum occupancy limit. In addition, this new “Emergency Maximum Occupancy” must be posted in a conspicuous place within the facility.

Retail establishments also are required to clearly mark six feet of spacing in places like checkout lines and other high-traffic areas (including outside the establishment if customers are forced to line up). Stores must perform frequent and routine cleaning and disinfecting in high-touch areas as well. Businesses that are unable to maintain these standards will not be permitted to continue operating.

Although not required, retail establishments are “strongly encouraged” to take other proactive steps to limit the risk of spreading COVID-19. In particular, the Order encourages businesses to do the following:

  • Supply and encourage use of cloth face coverings for employees in positions that do not allow them to consistently maintain a 6-foot distance from others;
  • Require employees to clean their hands between interactions with customers and other employees;
  • Place hand sanitizer at entry and exit points and make disinfecting wipes and/or sprays available for shopping carts and baskets;
  • Designate exclusive shopping times for at-risk groups (including seniors);
  • Post signage that reminds customers and employees about social distancing; and
  • Develop systems to allow for curbside or drive-through pickup, or home delivery, and contact-free checkout.

In addition, “high-volume” retail establishments are encouraged to take extra precautions, such as installing plastic shields at cash registers and providing assistance with routing within the facility.

Finally, all retail establishments should instruct employees to stay home if they are sick.

While focused on retail establishments, the Order also addresses two other topics: skilled nursing facilities and unemployment claims. In terms of nursing facilities, the Order eliminates communal dining and other group activities, implements use of face masks for all staff and requires screening of staff at the beginning of their shift (including taking their temperature). These requirements go into effect at 5 p.m. on April 10, 2020. The final part of the Order, which is retroactive to April 1, 2020, is intended to speed up the processing of unemployment claims.

For more information, please contact Jeremy Sayre at 919.719.1252 or [email protected], or any member of Fox Rothschild LLP’s Labor & Employment Department.